Five Steps to Building a Preference Center

Your business needs the highest possible email deliverability rate in order to maximize your email marketing ROI. And there are many steps you can take to incrementally improve that deliverability rate, including adding an email preference center to your website. That’s where you establish the foundations of the relationship between your email marketing program and your subscriber, to ensure you’re delivering the most relevant emails possible, thereby meeting their expectations.

But how do you build a preference center that will do what you need it to do, primarily improve your communications with your subscribers so your email marketing is more relevant? How do you know what to offer as choices and what kind of information to ask for?

Below are 5 steps to building a preference center that will give you the information you need, and your subscribers the relevance they want.

Step One: Determine what information to collect
There are two reasons for offering a preference center: to improve your ability as a marketer, and to improve your subscriber’s experience as a recipient. Before you start building your preference center, make sure you are clear on why you are building it, and what information you hope to gain from it…always staying focused on how that information will help you do a better job of serving your customer or subscriber. What segmentation ability do you want and how granular should it be? Also keep in mind what your staff is capable of doing. Review your technology and staffing to determine what is possible as far as dynamic content, existing preference center limitations, etc.

Step Two: Spell it out
Tell them why you are asking for the information in the first place. When offering more than one newsletter or email type to subscribe to, be detailed in explaining what they will get and how often and allow them to sign up only for the newsletters and/or emails they choose.

Step Three: Give them some choices
A little choice can go a long way toward making subscribers feel heard! Even standard choices like these can make people feel like they have some say in how you will communicate with them:

• How they want it: html, text or mobile
• How often they want it: daily, weekly or monthly

Depending on your staff’s capability, time and resources, you can offer as many choices as makes sense (per Step One). Maybe they subscribe only to one of your newsletters, or maybe they only want to get emails about promotions. Or let them segment themselves geographically, or by gender, or age, or interest. Whatever you’re capable of doing plus whatever makes sense for your program equals the choices to offer.

Step Four: Make sure you’re asking for subscriber-centric information
Don’t view your preference center as a way to gather massive amounts of self-serving data about your customers. Ideally the data you collect serves you both: you as the marketer so you can be more targeted, and them as the subscribers so they can get what they want.  If data like gender, income or age helps you with your demographics but doesn’t affect your email program segmentation, don’t ask for it.  But if certain information helps you do a better job at delivering relevant content, do ask.  You might need a ZIP code to segment geographically, for example. If you publish a parenting email newsletter, you’ll want to know how old the kids are. Or maybe you ask about their interests, if that ties into how you segment your content.

The options offered via your preference center will differ depending on whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, too.  Asking for a job title makes perfect sense for a B2B preference center, but no sense at all for a B2C one.

Step Five: Make sure it works
After building, test it from the user’s perspective and pay attention to what happens after it goes live. Does your sign-up rate go down? You might be asking for too much information. Scale back and see what happens. Does your unsubscribe rate go down? Congratulations, you’re doing a better job of meeting your subscribers’ expectations!

Email marketing doesn’t work unless it’s delivered. Give your subscribers some control over how and when they hear from you, and you’ll do a better job of keeping them happy, which in turn will keep your unsubscribe rate and spam complaints down.  Ultimately, what you prefer is a great email marketing ROI, right?

– Marco Marini
ClickMail Marketing